Jesters have beaten us at least three times out of the last four occasions we have played so we were hoping for good omens before the start of play. However, with an iffy weather forecast and temperamental grounds machinery, things were not looking good. We started a few minutes late having failed to give the outfield a final trim (mower stopped mysteriously) and the pitch a last minute roll (heavy roller conked out). Howard Lancaster rescued us and worked his magic to get both machines off the field. Paul Wordsworth led the charge to the hand pulled slightly lighter roller and several of the team warmed up by dragging it to the middle and back. Jesters were amused and very patient. No-one noticed we hadn't moved the boundary rope in as planned and so the cricket started following the toss (won by Jesters) on a larger than normal oval already slowed by rain during the week.
Captain for the day, Mark Ford-Langstaff asked George Williams and Rob Barton to open the bowling. The wicket was slow and the Jesters opening batsmen played patiently, waiting for boundary opportunities and took the shine off the ball. George struck first, hitting the wickets with a fine delivery. Rob was slightly unlucky not to get a breakthrough, moving the ball just enough to whistle past the edge but not finding it. Asif Kamal replaced Rob whilst George continued to toil away from the road end. His perseverance was rewarded when after several play and misses, he found the edge and Mark took the catch at first slip. Asif meanwhile picked up the wicket Rob had deserved when a horrible delivery was badly timed and Squiff Wordsworth pouched the catch.
The score was now 50 for 3 and the match delicately poised. Jesters bat deep and numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 all passed twenty without ever really getting away from us. Each time they appeared to be stretching ahead, a wicket was taken. Asif picked up a second (bowled) and Paul Wordsworth deservedly got his first in the final over of a measured nine over spell when Jamie Lumb completed a stumping. Asif bowled ten overs back to back and both bowled five good balls per over. The batsmen were good enough to pick off the looser deliveries and so the score continued to rise. Seril Shah and Mike Robinson stepped up to shoulder some of the later overs before Rob returned to dismiss the pugnacious Chak (caught by Mike).
Other teams would have crumbled, but Jesters batted well all the way down the order and finished on 173 for six.
Mike Robinson and family provided a lovely tea with home grown cucumbers in the sandwiches and plenty of cake. A fine debut and two appreciative teams thank you for volunteering.
After tea, and with the temperature finally beginning to move upwards towards the August average, Mark and Howard walked to the middle to begin the chase. Chak opened the bowling and had one of those days where he seemed to have the ball on a string. Bowling quickly and nipping the ball away he quickly had us in trouble. The wicket when it came however was at the other end, Howard chipping the ball up to point to bring Jamie to the crease. Mark was keeping the three slips and two gullies interested but did manage a boundary through the covers before Chak bowled a jaffa that defeated his forward defence and took the top of off. Jay Mumtaz soon followed, edging behind from an equally good ball before Squiff was given out LBW to give Chak his third.
With the top order blown away, Jamie was joined by Mike. Instruction from the skipper, despite the steepling required run rate was to press for the win, you only live once, draws are boring etc. Jamie hit a monster six and Mike two boundaries in quick succession before Jamie was caught.
George plays a different game to most of us and today was no exception. Batting at seven is well below where he should be but the Middleton ethos is to give everyone a game so George waited patiently for his turn whilst we collapsed. His 69 not out came off not many balls and included seven fours and three sixes. It was both entertaining and domineering. Mike kept him company for a while but on his exit (caught), Asif strode out with fire in his belly and adventure in his eyes. He had begged to be promoted up the order. Inspired by George, he promised boundaries and a fightback but alas, three balls later reality interrupted and he returned muttering something about being unlucky. Maybe next time, Asif!
Rob Barton played out some tricky deliveries and he and George steered us through the final six overs or so to claim the draw as Middleton finished on 134 for 7.
We walked off in sunshine to enjoy a BBQ manned by Chairman Peter VdK. Seril put his hand up to run the bar and everyone else chatted and enjoyed a beer before helping with picking up the flags etc. Life is so much easier when everyone lends a hand and after a trying day to begin with, it was much appreciated. Well played team and well done Jesters.